Digestible Chunks

How much is too much training?  I guess the only ones who can answer that are the learners themselves.  What I try to do to make training easily digestible to my learning audience, is to break it down into easy to manage chunks.

One method of doing this is a part of Information Mapping, which I've spoken of before.  Information Mapping is a method of organizing information into "maps" that only cover one topic.  This information is further broken down into blocks which only contain one thing (set of instructions, piece of knowledge, etc).  Information mapping's goal for how much information can be contained in either a map or block is 7 plus or minus 2 things.  That seems a little strange but what it means is that the amount of information that we can remember is somewhere around 7 things.  If you only have 2 other things to remember this is considered not enough information to break out into a new map or block of information, so up to 9 things are considered acceptable.

For those that doubt me about remembering 7 pieces of information, you can prove it to yourself by simply reciting your phone number.  Also if you doubt the point about up to 9 pieces of information, include the area code (For North America this will in fact be ten pieces of information).  Interestingly enough the phone companies who introduced direct dialing choose the format for telephone numbers because of this very fact of how people remember things.

Now what is interesting about the human mind is that we can interpret a great deal of information as a single piece of information.  In fact most of us consider that 7 or 10 digit number as one piece of information.  So in fact we as people may remember many phone numbers that seem important to each of us.  I know my own phone number but I also know my wife's, my parents, my sister's, and I even know my mother-in-laws phone number.  If you asked me to recite all that information it would actually be 50 individual digits that make up those 5 different numbers.  It's easy for me to remember because I only think of it as 5 things.

You can do the same thing when organizing your training.  For example; you may have determined that you need to train 18 individual concepts to a group of learners.  Once you analyze the information you realize that these 18 steps fall into only a couple of larger categories.  Here is an example as to how you might group the similar steps so that no single larger group of steps contain more than 7 smaller steps:

  1. First Step

    1. Step 1
    2. Step 2
    3. Step 3
    4. Step 4
    5. Step 5
    6. Step 6
    7. Step 7
  2. Second Step

    1. Step 8
    2. Step 9
    3. Step 10
    4. Step 11
  3. Third Step

    1. Step 12
    2. Step 13
    3. Step 14
    4. Step 15
    5. Step 16
    6. Step 17
    7. Step 18
Using this approach could allow you to teach a skill that is actually rather complex but make it seem easy.  You wouldn't actually label the sub steps as I have up to 18 as this would defeat the purpose.  This is only to illustrate that it is possible to teach 18 steps or more in what will seem like only 3 major steps.